Unranked Florida State heads into Hard Rock Stadium on Saturday night trying to beat the Miami Hurricanes for the first time in four years, but the Seminoles will be unranked, playing without their head coach, and trying to impress in the storied rivalry as 10-point underdogs to the nation’s 12th-ranked team.
Miami is already 2-0 and looking for a second consecutive Atlantic Coast Conference victory after going on the road and drilling 18th-ranked Louisville last week 47-34.
Florida State (0-1, 0-1 ACC) will be without first-year coach Mike Norvell, who tested positive for COVID-19, and will be away from the team at least through Monday.
Norvell, who led Memphis to a 12-1 record and a berth in the 2019 Cotton Bowl before leaving for Tallahassee, will participate fully in pregame preparations, albeit remotely. Once the game starts, however, he will be watching from home.
“It hurts not being able to be around our guys for 10 days,” Norvell said of the quarantine period. “It’s extremely disappointing. This is one of the greatest rivalries in college football.”
Norvell previously had missed not so much as a practice, but he’ll be replaced Saturday by Chris Thomsen, who was Abilene Christian’s head coach from 2005 to 2011. Thomsen, a low-key type who is normally in the press box as the tight ends coach, will now be on the field. Norvell normally calls FSU’s plays, but that duty now falls to Kenny Dillingham.
Florida State, after losing its home opener to Georgia Tech 16-13, was idle last weekend. FSU scored 10 points on its first two drives before going cold. The Seminoles lost two fumbles (both by quarterback James Blackman), had an interception, and turned the ball over on downs twice during their remaining possessions.
For Miami (2-0, 1-0 ACC) and second-year coach Manny Diaz, everything is clicking so far, as he and offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee have the Hurricanes playing up-tempo ball.
Against Louisville, Miami scored on a pair of 75-yard plays — one on the ground and one in the air — during which Lashlee set up the defense, using an identical formation that previously had gone elsewhere.
“We knew these plays were going to be open,” Miami tight end Brevin Jordan said. “We were just waiting for the right time to call them.”
Miami, which disappointed last season at 6-7, has been revitalized by several transfers, including quarterback D’Eriq King, kicker Jose Borregales and defensive ends Quincy Roche and Jaelan Phillips.
King has emerged as a team leader as a dual-threat player. In a 31-14 season-opening win over UAB, King ran for 83 yards and a TD. Against Louisville, he showed off his arm, passing for 325 yards and three touchdowns.
Borregales has been a revelation, scoring 17 points against Louisville, including field goals of 57 and 48 yards. The Hurricanes certainly could have used his leg last season, when their kickers missed eight of their 20 field goal attempts as Miami lost five games by a touchdown or less.
Roche, meantime, has brought a speed rush to the ‘Canes, after recording 13 sacks for Temple last season. Phillips, a former UCLA Bruin, has already shown to be been effective against both the run and pass this season in the Miami defense.
The other big improvement for Miami is its offensive line, which allowed just three sacks in two games under new line coach Garin Justice. Last year, Miami quarterbacks were sacked 51 times.
FSU’s most dangerous weapon is wide receiver Tamorrion Terry. The 6-4, 210-pound junior. He caught 60 passes last year for 1,188 yards and nine TDs. But with Cam Akers off to the NFL, the Seminoles’ running game appears to be diminished. Texas A&M transfer Jashaun Corbin was held to 18 yards on six carries against Georgia Tech, although he caught eight passes for 55 yards.
Injuries have hurt FSU, and three starters are questionable for Miami, affecting the Seminoles offensive line, defensive line and secondary.
One key factor, potentially, is the Seminoles’ ability to block kicks. Against Georgia Tech, they blocked three kicks — two field goals, both by All-American defensive tackle Marvin Wilson, and an extra point.
–Field Level Media